Ice-breakers are an essential component of maritime and national security infrastructure. It is time to determine the fate of U.S. ice-breakers Polar Sea and Polar Star.
Both parties are grappling over the future of the two nearly 40-year-old ships. The argument falls during the heated economic budget crisis, centering on whether to eliminate one ship for spare parts to fix the other or to spend federal funds to fix and update both ships. The problem involves making decisions that could sacrifice security or spend valuable defense funds.
With the state of its aging ice-breaking fleet, the U.S. lacks credible and effective ice-breaking capabilities. Without access to Arctic waters, the U.S. jeopardizes its security in the Arctic region and strategic advantage over other exploring nations. At the same time, it hinders the possibility of exploring vast oil reserves. By failing to properly modernize an adequate fleet of ice-breakers and Cost Guard capabilities, the U.S. government has put Arctic security and exploration of the region at risk.
Refurbishing and mending the ships is estimated to cost around $57 million. If the Administration opts to fix the aging ships, the ice-breakers would be operable only for another 10 years before wear and tear would cause them to be decommissioned permanently.
Instead of repairing the aging fleet, these deteriorating ships should be permanently ported. The Administration should work toward privatizing ice-breaking operations through commercial companies. This option creates jobs, decreases governmental budget commitments, and allows for diverse missions.
On December 1, the House Subcommittee on Cost Guard and Maritime Transportation meets to discuss decommissioning the ice-breaking ships. The issue of the Arctic region remains one that the Administration has yet to address properly.